I received a message from a very brave woman I will call K who like many of you is at the end of her rope, so to speak in her battle with chronic pain. And like all of you does not realize the strength she has because she may think she has given up but she is no where near the end. She may be just beginning and I believe in her as I believe in all of you. She asked me to go over how I am able to manage pain naturally and what my routine is, a question asked often and one that I never mind reviewing with all of you. I only ask you all to keep an open mind and know that it took me over a year to see a huge difference in my life. I went from coming close to ending my life because of chronic pain to living with it naturally and finding a way through the pain, not out but through. Some of the ways I manage pain may seem impossible to many of you and some may seem ridiculous but bear with me because I used to be exactly where you are today. Please always remember that I spent a more than a third of my life on medications, getting surgeries, and watching the clock of my life tick by just waiting to die. I know how you feel and that is why I commend all of you for reading my blog because had I seen a blog about a woman who manages chronic pain naturally and is happy despite chronic pain I would laugh/cry/scream and never read another one of her posts again. With that said, I am going to try and give you a lay out of the routine I utilize to manage chronic pain.
Exercise: Very scary word and believe it or not I never exercised until I learned how to manage chronic pain naturally. I loved watching ice hockey but I believed exercise would only increase my pain and I was on way too many medications to even fathom exercise. I started slow: yes my first work out DVD was Richard Simmons: I had no idea what I was doing and the thought of a gym scared me to death. Over time I began to love exercise and began finding so many DVD’s and later classes and yoga. No one in my late teens or early twenties would believe party/chronic pain/medicated Jessica would be a runner, have a certification to teach aerobics, and love yoga. I exercise first thing in the morning and I listen to my body. Some days, like today I did forty minutes of kickboxing because I awoke very anxious. Some days, I can feel a ‘difficult day’ coming on so I practice yoga. Either way, stretching is very important whether you begin exercising or not. Please email me if you want any exercise tips or specific DVD’s I found extremely helpful. Don’t worry you do not need to run a half marathon to exercise: took me ten years to get to that point and running is not for everyone.
Mindfulness/Meditation: Another scary word! I will be honest I was very anti meditation for a long time. It was the one thing I did not practice after I left the Mayo Clinic in MN. I believed that if I laid there in silence all I would think about was pain and I was right once I manned up and tried to meditate. However, I made meditation way too complicated! First off, you need to have some sort of CD that walks you through a meditation. I personally love CD’s that take me to the moon or gardens: visualization is what works best for me. Most of you know how much I love yoga nidra: the meditative heart of yoga. Talk about a life changer. It is a meditation that puts you in a deep ‘sleep.’ If you would like any suggestions on CD’s or specific people I enjoy listening to please email me: you are not a bother! email@example.com
Distractions, Distractions, Distractions: It took me years to train my brain to not think about pain. Our thoughts become our reality and the more we focus on something whether that be positive or negative the more we feel that certain physical or emotional feeling. To be quite honest distracting my mind from pain has been my most helpful tool in my management with chronic pain. Pain still enters my mind on a daily basis especially if I am going through a stressful time or things in my life are causing me to feel sad or angry. When pain does enter my mind I quickly find something else to focus on. For me that means action. I have a very difficult time just telling my mind to stop thinking about pain and lay there and try and think about something positive. I get up and I do something I enjoy. So many of us forget our hobbies and passions because of chronic pain and/or give up on those hobbies and passions. This is a double edge sword. Your hobbies and passions are your biggest allies in your journey with chronic pain. I love being a mother and taking my daughter places or just playing at home, I love reading and writing, I love cooking and discovering new things that are healthy to make or purchase, I love being outside, I love the beach, walking around our lake, and spending time with the people in my life who make me laugh. I love helping people and I love teaching my daughter the lessons I learned through my journey with chronic pain. My life is busy but fulfilling and the things I do now are in pursuit of my dreams instead of pursuit of a cure. However, when I first began managing pain naturally I went maybe ten minutes without thinking about pain no matter what distractions I used. I have written this many times but I used to take a book everywhere I went (this was before the non stop scene of cell phones and the internet, yes I’m older than I appear.) If I was the passenger in a car and I began to think about pain I would grab that book and start reading. I could go on and on about the many things I love to do and what helps me to not think about pain but we all have different interests and passions and it is time you began distracting your mind from pain by bringing back the things you enjoy doing. People always say: “I just want to be happy.” Ok, no kidding: most of us do. But, what makes you happy. What did you used to do before chronic pain became the center of your life? Dig down deep and I don’t care if you have to dig back into your formative years when you used to love to color. Get yourself a coloring book and start coloring, they make awesome ones for adults now. Whatever takes your mind away from pain aside from illegal activities (joking, for the most part) do it! There should be no shame in your game. This is about you and your life. This is a process and if you have the expectation that distracting your mind from pain will be the answer right away you are going to be very disappointed. I have to be honest with all of you, it did take me a long ass time but there is a method to this madness and if my ways of dealing with chronic pain work for me, I swear they can work for anyone.
Nutrition: No, you do not have to juice every morning as I do or research GMO’s and the affect they are having on our nation as a whole. Just start simple. Stop eating crap. When I first began eating healthy I used to buy lean cuisines and have one every night. I was also single at the time and never cooked once in my life. Now, I enjoy cooking and making healthy meals especially for my daughter who to this day hates sugar, now that I do not understand. I eat pretty well but you put some chocolate in front of me and do not expect to get it back. You can make nutrition fun: I never thought I would say that but now it is a huge passion of mine. Try and not overthink it just eat as healthy as you can and work on portion control and make sure you are getting fruits, vegetables, and protein. I am from New Jersey, very close to Philadelphia: I love cheesesteaks but I only have one on a special occasion. There is a lot of truth to the saying: “We are what we eat” or “Eat a bagel, feel like a bagel.” I read an article recently that said: “Eat white bread and you will be dead” and thought wow that is taking nutrition to the ultimate extreme. Again, if you have specific questions email me: I love talking about my passsions. And oddly my passions are because of chronic pain. Some days I do not regret my bike accident.
Sleep: I get it, it is very difficult to sleep when you have chronic pain: sometimes impossible. If you are like me you continuously look at the clock while trying to sleep counting down how many hours you may or may not get. Put that clock away. Put it in a drawer and stop looking at the time. On the nights you cannot sleep (a living hell, I get that) practice yoga nidra the next day. I promise you, it will help you immensely.
These are just some of the ways I manage pain naturally: there are many more but I do not want to overwhelm you. I am here for you and I promise practice makes permenance and all of this takes time to start kicking in. I beg you to not expect an outcome: just start slow and see what happens. You are not alone and I know you can all get to a point where I am today.
This post is dedicated to K: YOU ARE SO MUCH STRONGER THAN YOU THINK!